Frequently asked financial questions are questions that I’ve seen pop up over and over again.  I thought I’d take the time to answer them in this new Series.

So each post will have a short quick answer to these frequently asked financial questions followed by a longer more detailed answer. Today I will answer, How can I afford to travel when I have debt?

How can I afford to travel when I have debt?

When you’re drowning in debt and dreaming about travel, it can feel like the world is against you. Always having to make up for past money mistakes, you eventually start to think, can’t I just take a break from it all? While finding the money to travel while in debt can be difficult, it’s not impossible. You can set yourself up to take some really nice trips, but you have to plan and be patient.

Short Answer:

You can afford to travel while paying off debt, by being strategic. Don’t just resign yourself to saving a travel fund, though it is something you should do.

Also get a credit card (so long as you pay it off each month) and earn points to help you travel. If you have to do any travel for work sign up for the hotel rewards points and earn as many as possible, forgo room cleaning for an extra 500 points. Find out all the ways you can earn points and take advantage of all of them.

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Long Answer:

Signing up for credit cards to use for travel rewards is often called travel hacking and there are sites dedicated to the topic. Personally, I prefer small scale travel hacking with just two travel rewards cards.

I’ve been in the process of travel hacking my way to Paris. I’m about there points wise just have to figure out when to book the trip (I want to go in winter).

Travel Hacking Basics

The way travel hacking works is that you sign up for a credit card that has bonus reward points you get once you spend a set amount of money in a set amount of time. In my experience, it’s typically $1,000 – $3,000 within three months.

You earn points for the what you spend and once you hit the required threshold you earn the bonus points as well. You may also be able to earn bonus points for any referrals.

For example, I’ve earned enough points to fly round trip to Paris, by signing up for the Delta credit card. I got 30,000 bonus sign up points, and 20,000 points for referring friends to the card. The rest I’ve earned by flying Delta to other places and using my credit card. I now have over 65,000 points.

Taking Advantage of Work Travel for Rewards Points

I used to travel pretty much constantly for my old job, which meant staying in a lot of hotels. I stayed exclusively at Marriotts or other hotels that I could transfer to Marriot points. The consistency along with signing up for bonus points when I stayed during a set time period, earned me over 155,000 points which is nearly enough for 5 nights in Paris.

Related: How to Take Advantage of Traveling for Work

If You Don’t Want to Churn Credit Cards

Many travel hacking sites revolve around churning credit cards to get all the sign-up bonuses. Personally, I’m not interested in the stress that would entail which is why I’ve just stuck to two companies. By sticking to them I earn plenty of points for the travel I want to do.

This means I may not always travel for free. It also means I may not always be traveling, but I got my fill with my last job. I get to travel enough for well within my budget without having to worry about being able to pay my bills.

Wrapping it Up with a Bow on Top

How can I afford to travel when I have debt? Debt doesn’t have to stop you from traveling but it will likely impact how often you travel. By being strategic with rewards programs and credit card bonuses you can make your dream trip come true and still kick debt in the face.

Read more from the Frequently Asked Financial Questions Series.

Money tools & resources i recommend

Chime (for saving) works by starting a spending account (takes 5 minutes) and opting into the automatic savings plan. (Learn more about getting started with Chime).  Every time I use the Chime Debit Card it rounds up my purchase to the nearest dollar and puts in in savings. Right now they also offer a double round-up bonus on those savings. All those withdrawals add up over time. Chime is free to use, with no monthly fees. With Chime, you end up saving money without having to think about it.

Qapital (for building savings & reaching money goals) Qapital can help you reach savings goals. Once you have the Qapital App installed and a bank account (or in my case three) connected you set up a goal or goals.  Then you set savings rules for each of your goals. For example, I have a round up to the nearest $2 rule, a guilty spending rule -when I buy Dominos. Qapital is free to useBonus, when you use my link you'll get $5 after your first savings.

Qoins (for debt repayment) When you sign up for Qoins, you connect your bank account and then spend as you normally would. Qoins will round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and put that change towards an extra debt payment. Learn more on How Qoins Can Help You Pay Off Debt Faster

SoFi (for refinancing) If you have private loans or your debt to income ratio allows, consider refinancing with a company like SoFi. Learn more about what it's like to refinance with Sofi. Refinancing my bar loan with SoFi ended up saving me over $1,000. Use my link to refinance your student loan and you'll get a $100 bonus.


Liz is a blogger helping people with personal finance and working for themselves. She shares her own journey to debt freedom and helps graduates dealing with above average student loan debt on her site, Less Debt More Wine. She currently resides in NC after calling Massachusetts home for nearly a decade.